2021 June Mag

June 1, 2021

Paulette Roby has been marching for Civil Rights since she was a child. And she’s still marching.

June 2021 Cerese D Magazine cover featuring Paulette Roby
PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY;  CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES

During 1963, Birmingham was known as one of the most racist cities in the South. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had described it as a “symbol of hard-core resistance to integration.” Civil Rights activists had nicknamed it Bombingham, because of the frequency of violent attacks against those fighting the system of segregation. The children of Birmingham played a key role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and their courage and determination, then, matters today.

Paulette and Curtis Roby, laughing together, dressed in black.
Paulette with husband Curtis Roby

Six months into 2021, the Black community is fighting against voter suppression that is being supported by nearly every state legislatures and some elected leaders to the U. S. Congress; police violence against Black women, men, teens, and underage children is videotaped day after day; an insurrection on democracy witnessed by millions but is feigned by 147; safety in public spaces; and the Jim and Karen Crows disregard for anything Black from health to wealth have made 2021 look like 2020’s first cousin with a virus.

As we grapple with the mental fatigue from above, meet Paulette Porter Roby, a face of courage who believes in hope and Black Lives Matter, then and now. In 1963, 13-year-old Paulette left her classroom to become one of Birmingham’s Children Foot Soldiers who fought on the Civil Rights front lines for equality for her generation, and unbeknownst to her at the time, an inspiration for future generations to come. She was one of the youngest protesters who was arrested for standing up to the police led by then public safety commissioner Bull Connor, a determined segregationist. Paulette and other Foot Soldiers’ stance against segregation and racism helped change the course of the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement and gave the momentum that helped cement the Voting Rights Act of 1964 into law. Throughout 1963, Birmingham’s Children Crusade nonviolent campaigns helped win victories in getting concessions from segregationists for Dr. King and local Civil Rights leaders. But those victories came with a heavy toll on the community. 16th ​Street​ Baptist Church, a meeting point for Paulette and the many school age Foot Soldiers, was also the target of a bombing that is forever etched in the soul of the Birmingham community and the annals of American and World History.  

Unable to vote at 13, Paulette knew if she did not fight for her future, then, and the future of her people, she would not be able to vote later in life. She persists with that fight today, 58 years after the Birmingham’s Children Crusade garnered unprecedented national and international media attention for its brutal assault on the child protesters, the community and even innocent church goers. Through the lens of wisdom, Paulette recognizes, now more than ever, it is important for the Black community to know that our history lessons are for us to excavate for not only insight and knowledge but to continue to engage and create strategies to help prevent the injustices of yesteryear but also stop the injustices of an ever-evolving societal system that has been woven like an invisible cloak. A cloak not to keep the community warm and bring comfort but to cover up man-made systems that keep us from addressing root causes of systemic issues that overwhelm and discourage Black communities. Black people must fight to stay empowered with solutions to build up our communities and leave legacies for our young people and our future. Paulette believes voting is one of the strongest allies of ​the ​Black community in that battle. No matter how difficult some are trying to make the hard-fought for right to vote become a vague memory from the past and not a freedom that should endure forever.

Still marching.

Today, as the Chair of the Civil Rights Activist Committee at the Foot Soldiers headquarters in Birmingham, Paulette meets with Black Lives Matters movement members, high school students, and visitors from around the world who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. She shares her personal chronicles of being a Civil Rights Foot Soldiers, then and now. She also makes sure history does not forget those who walk beside, in front, and behind her. She talks openly in public spaces about the progress of Black Americans and​ their​ communities have made. She also addresses issues within the community that must be fixed by us for us. Paulette believes Black communities must be present and doing the work while working together so when we call out targeted racists acts and unearth intentional wrongdoings that harm Black minds, bodies, and souls. This ​should be ​done without fear and the need to make concessions that sets us back instead of propelling us forward.  

We are one year out from the killing of George Floyd witnessed by millions; 100 years after ​the ​torching of Black Wall in Tulsa, Oklahoma that wiped out millions of dollars of collective wealth from the Black community; and 156 years since the first Juneteenth (the emancipation of Black slaves in Texas); Paulette vows to continue to fight for equality, march even if she does not have shoes on her feet; and will continue to protest as if her life depended on it. Because it does! Paulette talks frequently ​to national and international audiences ​about inspiring ​stories ​that represents the resiliency of​ Black people coupled with tears for our collective untold pain and loss. She believes ​the history of Black people​ must never be forgotten or swept under a flag for the sake of moving on. It is a part of our heritage and must be remembered. And shared.

Paulette Roby wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm Speaking."

In a recent Associated Press story on the Foot Soldiers, Paulette stated, “This battle has no end.” Encouraged by the visibility and courage of today’s young leaders, she said, “They are needed. There will be a demand for soldiers throughout the generation of eternity who are willing to continue the battle for justice, peace, and equality.”

We cannot stop fighting.

Nationally and internationally known, Paulette is ad​mired​ and sought after. ​Married to Vietnam Veteran Curtis Roby (USMC) who also marched ​​on the front lines and mother of two beautiful daughters, ​​Paulette​ is a living history book and continues to add to history daily as she meets with visitors to Birmingham’s Historic 4th Avenue Business District.  She joins the ranks of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth for being a brave warrior who was willing to endure the suffering administered by Birmingham’s police water cannons and trained attack dogs rather than continue to live where laws were meant to keep Black people oppressed and desperate.

This Juneteenth, join Cerese D and the ​spirit​ of Birmingham’s Foot Soldiers by honoring our ancestors, our living heroines, and unsung heroes’ courage and bravery by making sure you, your entire family, friends, and members of your organizations are registered to vote. Let us be sure to vote in every local, state, and national elections. ​Our lives depend on it!​

Love Paulette’s t-shirt? Find it here.

Cover Image: {PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY;  CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES}

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Comments (25)

    • My friend my sister in Christ I thank God for strong black women like you my mom and other women who had the courage to take a stand on the front line for our black community so we can sit in the front of the bus,have freedom of speech,the right to vote so we could have a great Black President (yes we can and yes we did)all because of people like you your mom Mrs Porter; with words of encouragement pray stay strong we can and will make it!!!!I salute you my sister My God always watch over you and I love you much and I’m so proud of you and your husband my God always bless you both stay safe and keep on keeping on!!!!

  • This is an awesome article about Mrs. Roby and I must say she is truly committed. I have know her since I was 10 years old and her passion for Voting right has never stopped.
    If possible I would like to purchase the magazine that she is featured in

  • Patricia Russell-McCloud

    Paulette Porter Roby is a strikingly beautiful woman whose courage, then and now, frames her contribution to all stakeholders that makes us deservedly proud. The CERESE D Jewelry selection is a perfect choice as we are reminded of the urgency of our collective need to Stay Woke.. Be Engaged. Remain Unapologetic for our
    Unrelenting quest to ensure fairness and equality. Exceptional.

  • My sister, Paulette, is absolutely beautiful and I love how this article truly explains the legacy of the Foot Soldiers for future generations. WE SHALL OVERCOME

  • Thank you my sister for the dedication to what appears to be an endless fight for blk people. As MLK said there are going to be some difficult days ahead, let’s keep fighting, ‘cause they are even for a LIE, Many Blessings, family first

  • Paulette is such a beautiful person inside and out. This is a beautiful article. Paulette keep doing what you’re doing! Yes, we shall overcome!

  • Beverly Diggs-Berry

    Where can we get the beautiful Civil Rights T with the wings? Speaks volumes…the Cerese D jewelry definitely is a compliment. ❤😁

  • My Sistah Girlfriend is truly been one of our Matriarchs of Civil Rights and the continued Journey to destroy the brain washing of Racism.
    Paulette thank you for your encouraged determination through the Foot Soldiers.
    God has put you Paulette Roby in my life and I’m so Blessed and Grateful❣️

  • I have known Paulette Roby all of my life and she’s always been a person of strength, knowledge and wisdom. Always carrying the torch for the rights of black people young & old.Never forgetting the past & encouraging the youths to learn so that it can never be repeated. I thank her for all of the work she’s done & continues to do!

  • Ms. Paulette Roby a true soldier committed to the cause for Black Culture! What a beautiful journey A FOOT SOLDIER! still on the battlefield. SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO TELL IT!!
    and that somebody is you!!!

  • Fernessa McConico

    My big cousin, Paulette has always shared her passion for the Foot Soldiers, as long as I can remember. I remember while pursuing a paralegal degree. My instructor invited her to come and share her experience with the class, time didn’t permit her to come, instead we watched a documentary on the Foot Soldiers. I got the opportunity to claim my first cousin in so many history making events. The day I accepted her invitation to the Foot Soldiers Headquarters, I’ve had a desire to be associated with the Foot Soldiers and to be like my big cousin Paulette Porter Roby.

  • Clarissa Williams Copeland

    To my friend,sister,co-worker and foot soldier. It’s such an honor to know you. I’m also proud to be a Foot Soldier to. I’m proud of the work you’re doing. I remember when we step foot on the bus to go to Washington for President Obama inauguration. To sit and hear 👂 you guys talk about the history where we came. Talking and eating homemade pound cake and potato 🥧.It was a life journey l will never forget…😍

  • Anne-Marie Adams

    I am so proud to have been a part of your life, all the way back to my father teaching your mother at Parker High School. I am very proud of you and your accomplishments. The article is wonderful and so aptly describes your efforts to bring equality to our people. I did not know Curtis was in the Marine Corps. Now I know why he is tough enough to keep up with you.

    I miss you all so much. Maybe one day I can come back and continue to work with you again to help save our people. Please let me know how I can get a copy of that magazine. Talk to you soon.

  • First cousin I want to thank you for everything you have done for us in these years, you have made it possible for my family to become a better person out here in the world today all I can do is say thank you very much. I am proud to have a cousin like you. Love you Gwendolyn C Gladney. I am proud of you.

  • Paulette from you Aunt to you I’m so very proud of you and your stand of continuous civil rights for everyone. Keep up the great work that you’re doing as a foot soldier.

  • Helen Roby Bonham

    George Santayana, a writer & philosopher stated that those who do not learn history are doomed or likely to repeat it. This statement cannot be attributed to my beautiful sister-in-law Paulette Porter Roby because in 1963 she was a part of history while marching the streets of downtown Birmingham, Alabama as a young Foot Soldier along with other youth. These fearless youth marched and demanded equal rights for all regardless of race, creed, religion or color. Though faced with then staunch segregationist and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor’s tactics of trying to deter the young Foot Soldiers from marching for equal rights.
    Tactics were used such as allowing vicious police dogs to attack them, forceful water from fire hoses to be released upon them and being jailed. The youth like Paulette were not deterred at all but continued to march until the jails were so full that they had no place to house them.
    Paulette today serves as Chair of the Foot Soldiers Civil Right Activist Committee. A position that allows.her to share her historical experience as a Foot Soldier with the youth of today and visitors from near and far seeking to learn about the role that the Foot Soldiers played then and now.
    Our family is very proud of Paulette and thank you for highlighting her in your June edition.

  • Congratulations on your well-deserved success. Raven and I are so proud of you. Thank you for the Strength that you have shown as being a truly dedicated foot soldier from the pass and present. You stood tall and walked strong. We are proud to call you MaMa. Love Always, your daughters Curtrice and Raven.

  • Such an honor!!! Authentic Spirit, Faithful Soul, Servants Heart…..Women of God!!! The World is a better place because of Paulette Porter Roby! Birmingham is blessed that she calls this city home!!! Keep on Marching…..educating the people……VOTE!!!

  • Gloria Washington Lewis Randall

    Being a 2015, Civil Rights Legend, I am proud of Paulettre, and all the living survivors of the 1963 Civil Rights Movement! My hat goes off to the Alabama Christian Movement, that paved the way for the Children’s March! We can never forget the sacrifices and challenges, made! In the Name of Jesus, I ask that “ALL” FOOTSOLDIERS be Forever Remembered! They marched, endured, PRAISED GOD, and effected a change! The Struggle Continues, and it’s about to be a “repeat performance” If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them, over and over! Our Father in Heaven, sits High and looks Low! He knows our hearts! We will remain safe in His Arms! Find other FOOTSOLDIERS, they deserve to be REMEMBERED! GOD BLESS!!

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